CHAPTER TWENTY: THE HOLLOW-EYED ANGEL
I gasped for air as I forced myself awake. Gary was sitting next to me, and seeing him instantly calmed me down.
“You’re awake!” he said in shock. “It’s all going to be okay. You’re back home.”
James, Stephanie, Brandon, and Abby were all in the room. I was lying on a couch that felt familiar. It was the couch in my living room. Did they carry me there? They must have. Strangely, I had no idea that I had even lost consciousness.
“How long was I asleep?” I asked timidly. It was hard to speak.
“For a while now,” said Gary. “It’s almost midnight.”
I slowly sat up and looked around at everyone.
“Are you all here because of me?” I asked.
“That’s right,” said Abby. “James told me what happened when you all passed our house. I saw everyone carrying you, so I was afraid something bad had happened. Nobody’s phones are working, and there are rolling blackouts all over the country. We still have power, though.”
“You were screaming like crazy again,” Brandon told me, “like that time in school when the ambulance came. I didn’t know you were out of the hospital.”
“Huh?” I thought about it for a little bit, but didn’t remember screaming when I saw Kristy.
My chest began to hurt.
“What’s wrong?” Gary asked concernedly.
“We have to stop her,” I said shakily. It felt like I was trying to cry.
“Stop who?” Gary looked into my eyes. “You’re really scared. What’s wrong?”
Before I could answer, the sliding glass door to the pool exploded in. James, who was standing in front of it, was thrown across the room from the blast. My heart filled with utter fear as the angel hovered inside the house, not touching the floor. Her slumped, broken posture looked like she was hanging from a noose. The long, white robes she was covered in swooped ominously a few inches off the floor. Her eyes were closed, and her hair flowed slowly and freely as if it was under water.
“What the hell is that?” Brandon shouted, stumbling away.
Stephanie and Abby both screamed in terror. The angel held out her hand and channeled a flare of Heartfire at Brandon. Gary jumped in front of it and struggled to hold it back, wrestling with the violet wisps that whirled around him.
“Soulpower,” said Kristy’s cold, empty voice.
James pounced at the angel, wielding Flare Blade. Still holding back Gary, Kristy held out her other hand, grabbing James in midair with a claw of Heartfire.
“Luminae,” she said with her ethereal voice.
She flung James aside, slamming him through a wall, then increased the power to the energy aimed at Gary, blowing him out of the way, leaving Brandon wide open. He attempted to flee, but was caught by Kristy’s Heartfire. We all watched helplessly as his soul was ripped out and absorbed by the angel’s violet halo.
I scrambled to get away, unable to get back onto my feet, dragging and clawing my way across the carpet. The walls, furniture, and ceiling were beginning to warp and twist. Gary managed to flame-punch the angel across her face. She appeared extremely rigid and somewhat rubbery when she was forced back. As Gary watched her for her next move, she unexpectedly teleported behind Gary and struck him with a ripple of shifted time, causing him to fly awkwardly back into James.
Kristy shot a flare of Heartfire at Abby and Stephanie, taking both of their souls simultaneously. Then she teleported and appeared directly in front of me. Reaching out with a cold hand, she pinned me to the floor.
“Krystal,” she said. Her voice was completely empty and emotionless.
“What do you want,” I gasped. “Why do you look like me?”
She slowly and gradually pressed downward onto me, a long and tedious motion, and I used all my strength to push her back, but her limbs and joints seemed boneless. I pushed my hand against hers and saw her fingers crawl and slink around mine. An indescribable pressure was crushing me, radiating from her white body like weighted air filled with locusts and wasps.
“I will erase you,” she said. Her mouth was agape as if her jaw was broken, and the words poured out without moving her lips. “Because,” she said, “you and I are connected.”
Her white, empty eyes opened, staring directly into mine. My chest began to burn and my head throbbed. I felt Kristy’s cold hands squeezing my throat and crushing my ribs over my heart. No matter how much I struggled to free myself, her grip was too strong.
“You are my opposite,” said Kristy. “All you must do is die. Relinquish thyself.”
Hollow eyes grew closer, her approach unstoppable. She moved ever downward onto me, her motions like that of a marionette falling in slow motion. Suddenly, it felt as if my skeleton was being dragged out from inside me … the effect of lifeless, boney wings rising from her back and fanning out, disemboweling the atomic structure of the ground beneath me, yanking at my soul that was pierced by thousands of invisible hooks that were tied to the tips of Kristy’s rising corpse wings.
“Those visions,” I choked as excess memories and knowledge implanted themselves into my mind. “You caused them ….”
“You were aware of my approaching awakening,” said Kristy, tightening her grip on my throat, preventing me from speaking more. “If I had not awakened, you never would have had such visions.”
Without warning, Kristy threw me aside. The loud crashing sound of shattering glass filled the room as Night Stallion pounced through the window of the living room right at Kristy. She held out both her hands and emitted a wave of energy at the horse, pushing it back outside. With a second wave of energy, Kristy blasted Night Stallion back into the street. The house shook and parts caved in.
“Darknae,” she said, watching Night Stallion stagger back and regain its equilibrium. It appeared shocked at how powerful Kristy was.
“What’s going on?” James gasped, getting back to his feet. “How did she do that to Night Stallion?”
Gary rushed over to my side and helped me up. I was massaging my throat where Kristy had grasped me.
“We gotta go!” Gary ordered.
Taking my hand, he ran out the broken sliding glass door with James. I looked back to see Kristy fending off Night Stallion. We leapt over the fence into another yard and kept moving as fast as we could to get away from the angel.
I couldn’t believe that my nightmares were coming true. The angel that haunted me all those years was real, and now it was after me.
The three of us made it through several yards until we came to the street. As soon as my feet touched the asphalt, the sound of a roaring engine caught our attention. The Zoe car zoomed up to us and stopped. Its doors opened, apparently gesturing for us to get in. Not pausing for another second, I jumped into the driver’s seat. Gary took the passenger seat and James quickly squeezed into the small backseat. The doors closed and I took off in the direction of the city. My heart was telling me to go there.
“Oh my God,” said James dismally, grabbing his head. “What’s going on, man? Somebody, please tell me what’s happening!”
“It’s Kristy,” I said quietly, but not calmly at all.
“Who is she, Krystal?” Gary shouted, forcing back tears. “You know something, and you’d better tell us! That damn thing killed Abby! And Stephanie and Brandon, too!” His voice cracked as he wiped his face with his hands.
“She’s my soul,” I told him. My hands were gripping the wheel, but somehow the Zoe car seemed to be helping me guide it. “That experiment that Thomas had. Her power is called Heartfire, the energy used for soul surgery. Thomas once told me it has time-shifting attributes or something.”
“That’s his experiment?” James asked in bewilderment. “What’s that mean? It evolved or mutated into that angel thing? You’ve gotta be kidding ….”
“How do you know her name?” Gary asked me with a growl. “You said her name’s Kristy.”
“That’s what my nickname was,” I said. “Everyone at the labs called me that. She must’ve assumed that name. She … showed me some things, and I automatically gained some knowledge and memories from her, too.”
Gary hung his head.
“Abby … and Stephanie and Brandon ….”
I looked over at him and put my hand on his shoulder. He had just watched his sister get killed, which must have been devastating for him.
“There’s too much going on!” James shouted angrily. “Why was she going after Krystal? And why did she attack Night Stallion? Man, nothing’s ever simple anymore!”
“There’s a lot we just don’t understand,” said Gary, wiping his eyes again, “but we have to stop that thing. We have to stop Kristy. I don’t care how or why! We have to stop her!”
“I think she’s in the city,” I said, trusting the familiar feeling inside me. “She already beat us there.”
“Yeah,” James muttered, “and it feels like Night Stallion is heading there, too. It must be mad at Kristy for interfering with its Darknae plans.”
The rest of the trip was in silence. I pushed the Zoe car to its limit, trying to get there as soon as possible. Gary stared out the window at the trees as they whipped by.
When we finally arrived in the city, my heart skipped a beat at the sight that stretched before us. The entire city was empty of life. For the most part, the city looked intact, but there was significant damage. The streetlights were on so it wasn’t completely dark. Dead bodies littered the streets where countless people lost their souls. Kristy had done a good job at sweeping through the city, taking as many souls as she could. I tried to think about what she possibly needed souls for, but the thought was too sickening.
I parked the Zoe car in the middle of the street in the heart of the city. The three of us climbed out and looked at the horror around us. We were in the middle of a ghost town. The moon was out, covering everything in its cold, silvery glow.
“This is freaky,” James whispered, clenching his fists. “All those people … are all dead, aren’t they?”
Gary looked around, holding back his fear and sadness.
“Yeah. This is ….” His voice trailed off. He couldn’t find the words to describe what we were seeing.
I heard the sound of large wings behind me. Spinning around, I saw Night Stallion come down and land a few yards away from us. Its red eyes scanned the area. Gary, James, and I watched it look at us. Slowly, the demonic horse walked over to James, who stood his ground, shaking from fear or anger. The chilly sensation of Darknae filled my insides with a sense of primitive fear and discomfort. I swallowed hard, trying to shake the ominous feeling, but it was in vain.
James held eye contact with Night Stallion.
“It’s … talking to me,” said James in awe.
“What’s it saying?” Gary asked skeptically. “I don’t hear anything.”
“Uh,” said James hesitantly, “I think it wants to work with us.”
“Really?” Gary looked back at Night Stallion.
“It says Kristy is a lot stronger than us,” said James, “and the only one who can stop her is Krystal.”
“What?” Gary asked. “Why?”
I remained silent.
“It says you have the power,” James told me. “Your power is the opposite of Kristy’s.”
“My power?” It was true that my power was different from anyone else’s. To think that it was actually the opposite power of Kristy’s was unbelievable. Then again, she had told me that I was her opposite.
“Night Stallion says it wanted to get closer to you,” James told me, not looking away from the winged horse. “It wanted to see if your power was a threat to Darknae and how it would fit into the higher workings of the universe. After seeing Kristy, it now knows more about what your power really is.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
“What is my power?” I asked desperately. “Tell me.”
“No idea,” said James. “Darknae has never encountered anything like it. You’re the first to ever have it.”
The empty voice echoed through us like a hundred daggers of ice. Kristy had appeared behind us. Night Stallion growled as she hovered closer to us.
“You!” James shouted, pointing Flare Blade at her. “You’re part of Krystal’s soul, aren’t you?”
“That is correct,” Kristy replied emotionlessly, “but that is also incorrect.”
“What do you mean?” Gary asked nervously. “You were created when Thomas removed the emptiness from Krystal’s soul.”
“It is true that I was originally the emptiness in Krystal’s soul caused by Darknae,” said Kristy, “only I have evolved and grown into my sentience. I have become a force of the universe, much like Luminae and Darknae. However, Heartfire is a manmade force, not a natural one.”
“Then how did I get my power?” I asked. My hands were shaking and sweat ran down my face.
“The universe thrives on balance,” Kristy explained. “In response to Heartfire, it created your power and bestowed you with it. It is my eternal goal to destroy the power you possess. Coincidentally, it is now your eternal goal to destroy the power I possess.”
“No,” I told her. “This world belongs to Luminae and Darknae. It’s none of our business to interfere with what they do.”
“It matters not,” said Kristy, advancing closer. “If you defeat me, your power will continue to exist and interfere with the natural forces. You will upset the balance regardless. But I will not let that happen. I will crush you, Luminae, and Darknae. It is the absolution of my existence.”
Night Stallion furiously charged at Kristy, baring its sharp fangs and claws. Kristy gracefully lassoed it with a rope of Heartfire and whipped the horse into a building at blinding speeds. Night Stallion looked like it was in a lot of pain as it fell to the ground.
Gary, James, and I attacked Kristy all at once. All of her attacks were nonphysical and long range, and her ability to quickly teleport made it nearly impossible to touch her. All of the Luminae attacks from James were ineffective for the most part, and Gary’s fireballs were easily neutralized. I tried using my special powers, but I didn’t know how to do it. Maybe they weren’t fully awakened.
The angel was at a clear advantage as she used her devastating energy against us. Night Stallion used its icy flame breath on her, but an invisible energy field protected her. The freezing fire created a sphere of ice around the angel, then shattered with a flick of her wrist. A powerful shockwave channeled up Night Stallion’s icy flame breath and exploded in its face, forcing it backwards.
“Let’s end this, guys!” Gary roared.
“We’ll give you the signal, Krystal!” James shouted. “Then you give her your all, got it?”
“Okay!” I said.
James aimed Flare Blade at the angel and fired a radiant beam of Luminae. Gary powered up his flaming fists and began pummeling her with a fury of fireballs as Night Stallion joined in with a stream of pure black energy. Darknae Sonata flooded the city as the moon sang its lullaby, firing its silvery strands at Kristy.
All of the energy converged into a single raging point. Kristy created a protective barrier of Heartfire around her to hold it back. Everyone forced themselves to break her barrier, creating enormous shockwaves that slowly began to tear the city apart. The streets cracked as the ground shifted and ripped, buildings began to deteriorate and crumble, palm trees were being torn apart, glass cracked and shattered, and winds began to whirl around the center of this artificial storm. Cars were lifted by the waves of energy, sending them flying and crashing into various structures.
Kristy emitted a powerful shockwave of Heartfire, attempting to fight the tremendous energy being aimed at her. Gary, James, and Night Stallion staggered back a little, but never ceased their onslaught, pushing Kristy’s energy back. She emitted another more powerful wave, but to no avail. She was actually being held at bay.
I waited for my cue, watching the angel struggle to resist our attacks. Everything was beginning to appear distorted as the immense energy began to bend space and time. At long last, Kristy began to give under the pressure.
“Now!” Gary screamed. “Krystal!”
Focusing all of my energy into my hands, I unleashed the strange attack I had previously used against Night Stallion and the robots, only this time I used both hands. A visible beam of energy shot out of my hands into the middle of the raging energy storm. There was an incredible fluctuation in energy, a small implosion, and then a massive explosion that sent everyone flying backwards. I was knocked unconscious by the intense concussion from the blast as the city around us dissolved and evaporated.